Developers: United Front Game, Square Enix London Studios
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
While this is really not another installment of the True Crime series of games, it might as well be when you look at the development past. It first started out as True Crime: Hong Kong, then got scrapped and picked up by Square Enix. From there, it was turned into what we know today, Sleeping Dogs. I would still view this as something that is continuing that series and is sort of a reboot.
In Sleeping Dogs you play an undercover cop named Wei Shen, who has just returned to Hong Kong, where he grew up, after finishing undercover work in the United States. Wei Shen was specifically called in to Hong Kong to infiltrate a Triad group by the name of the Sun On Yee. He has some kind of history with the group because of the area where he grew up in Hong Kong.
Some of the people Shen will have to eventually betray in the Sun On Yee are his childhood friends. Throughout the game Shen is having a conflict between his loyalty to his friends in the Sun On Yee and to the police force that he is a part of. He knows what the Sun On Yee do is wrong, but he still has some kind of emotional connection.
On top of all that, there is a rival Triad group known as the 18k that Shen has to worry about, not only because he is a member of the Sun On Yee but because he is a police officer as well. There are many conflicting emotions that drive Shen one way or the other throughout the whole game. Shen may have started out as morally black and white, but that slowly turns to gray throughout the game.
The story is amazing and allows for amazing immersion even if, like me, you have no connection to what happens in the game. I have never been to Hong Kong or any part of China, I don’t know Cantonese (Chinese), and I have no experience with anything that has to do with gangs, the Triad, or what have you. With all that said, I felt I was really in Hong Kong.
There are many things that affected the immersion for me. The dialogue is a mix of both English and Cantonese. Sometimes only Cantonese is spoken but most of the time it is English with Cantonese phrases thrown in. It works seamlessly and creates the feeling of listening to someone in Hong Kong.
A lot of the immersive feelings come from driving around. Let’s say I crashed into someone. Most of the time they would yell back at me angrily in Cantonese.
A lot of the music played throughout the game has an Asian sound to it, some of it being entirely in Cantonese.
The dialogue/sounds make you feel like you are in Hong Kong. More than that though was the environment. You look around and are definitely in Hong Kong with all the signs in Cantonese and the artwork around. Don’t worry, English is on most of the signs too.
It is a very beautiful game. I don’t know what it will look like on consoles, but I was able to download a high resolution texture pack, which made the game look amazing. I didn’t/couldn’t run the game on the highest settings, so it could have looked even better.
Let’s get into the meat of the game itself. You have to work on three different areas of experience: Triad, Face, and Police. There are a few ways to get Triad and Police XP. You get both at the end of missions and through various side missions. Things like defeating enemies gives Triad XP and causing property damage will take away Police XP.
For both Triad and Police XP you get some bonuses each time you level up. Most are usually bonuses to combat.
Face XP is basically your reputation. So you receive it for helping people out on their missions and doing things like races. You get bonuses for Face XP too when you level up, like discounts across various stores to buy things. You need a certain Face level to buy things like clothes and cars.
You do a lot of driving throughout the game and various aspects of driving affect all three of Shen’s XP. There are garages scattered around the city to pick up your car, as well as various places to buy a car. Driving in this game is incredibly fun, as are the races. I usually am not fond of racing games, but the racing in this was intense. Driving is less of a chore than in other games.
Now, the gameplay itself. There are some parkour elements to the game but trust me, Wei Shen is no Ezio Auditore. Most of the climbing is very basic and Shen can’t get up very high at all. A lot of it is vaulting over waist-high things, climbing up short walls, and jumping across various distances. This is probably the weakest part of the game to me because it is very easy to screw up unintentionally. The controls were a little basic and uninvolved.
The combat is very fluid and engaging. The developers compared it to the Batman games. The melee combat is definitely close to it, but Wei Shen is no more Batman than he was Ezio, but in a good way. It was very easy to never get touched in Batman when fighting a group, but that is not the case in Sleeping Dogs. Combat is more challenging. There is a little more variety in the people you have to fight. There are specific ways you have to beat every type of enemy, which you have to figure out. The only real problem with it is the camera, which is a problem in most third person games.
You have two types of attacks, your basic and heavy attack. Using those in various ways will give you different kinds of combos, which may stun your enemy. You learn new combos and moves by collecting Jade Statues and returning them to Wei Shen’s old mentor, who will then teach you some new moves.
One system to keep track of is keeping up your Face Meter, like the XP. It goes up naturally when fighting enemies. When the bar fills up, you will go into a state that increases health regen and just makes Wei Shen better overall.
There is a counter system in the combat too. It works very well, but it is not like the counter system in games like Assassin’s Creed, which you can more or less spam to defeat all of your enemies. You have to learn to time the counters and hope some of your other enemies don’t mess with you while you are countering someone else.
There are environmental attacks too, a lot of which are very gruesome. You can grab someone and throw them into fan blades, pick them up and throw them on spikes (even swordfish heads), or even push their face into a table saw.
Most of the combat is melee, but there are some sequences in which you use guns. Guns play a very minor role in the game and only become a part of it in a few cases, usually story missions. The gun combat is the basic cover shooter, and the guns themselves are also very basic. Guns are not the main sell of the combat, which is the fun you can have making combos in melee. The lack of guns may reference the fact that Hong Kong has strict gun control.
One last thing to mention, which are all of the side things you can do. There are things to collect, like cars and clothes, side missions to do for people, random events to help people with, races, and more. There are plenty of little things to keep you distracted if you want to take a break from the main story of the game.
Most people like to compare this to Grand Theft Auto. Anyone who says that Sleeping Dogs is just Grand Theft Auto in Hong Kong is so wrong. The only thing that Sleeping Dogs really shares with Grand Theft Auto is the sandbox feel around a big city. That’s it. Sleeping Dogs is much more story driven and guns are almost nowhere in sight.
Sleeping Dogs is a great game with one of the best stories I have seen in a game in a long time. The combat is fluid, the driving is frantic and fun, and there is so much to do. The only real criticisms I have are the fact that the PC port is rather poor (but the developers have said they are working on a fix), the “parkour” element is mediocre, and some camera problems.
If you were expecting Grand Theft Auto, you will either be disappointed or pleasantly surprised, Sleeping Dogs offers so much more. I cannot recommend this game enough.